It has been 6 years since I started woodworking professionally and I was still without a shop sign to help customers find me. That being said, we only bought the terrain where I have my shop a couple years ago and the landscape was in a sorry state. Last year we completely renovated most of the yard and alleys and while doing that I decided to turn most of the lawns into wild flower prairies, partly because we have a beehive but also because I was tired of mowing so much lawn every week.
picture from the wild flower prairie in our front yard at the end of the summer last year.
To our surprise our honey bees were nowhere to be spotted, instead it drew in all sorts of other useful insects and solitary bees. This raised our interest in these solitary bees and we discovered these were much more useful than honey bees in terms of pollination as these usually don’t travel very far and come out in cold or wet weather. This means that in case of a cold or wet spring, you can only count on these to pollinate your fruit trees. The problem is that in urban areas they can easily find flowers but they have trouble finding places to lay their eggs. That is where insect hotels come in handy.
front side of the shop sign
So I thought I would combine a large insect hotel with a shop sign, ideally it should have faced the road but these need to be faced south to south-east as the insects need direct sunlight, especially in the morning. So I placed it perpendicular to the road which happens to make it face south. Initially I planned on using poplar for the construction because it’s cheap and durable in this type of use, but I couldn’t get my hands on poplar slabs of the right thickness. So I opted for oak which is more durable but quite expensive. I was however able to use mostly slabs that were “sitting in the way” because when you buy an entire tree cut into slabs, chances are that some slabs will be in an odd thickness to avoid loss. These are often difficult to use so they stack up. This was a good way of using those.
back side of the sign covered in cedar shingles, I used the X-carve to carve out the signs.
I wanted it to be durable and natural, so no finishes could be used. For the roof and back side I opted for cedar shingles, this may be typical for the USA but extremely rare over here in Belgium, luckily I had seen a small stack on display at a local lumber yard which had been laying there for years. They were happy to give me a nice discount just to get rid of it.
I also made a similar hotel for against the workshop wall which is more centrally located in our garden, the construction is mostly identical to the other model besides the roof.
We previously also had small DIY-store insect hotels that we received as gifts from friends, those are usually made of poplar with bamboo sticks. They function well, but the construction is cheap and they needed to be fixed within 6 months.
To fill the frames I opted for several methods, these are made from oak sapwood which otherwise can only be used to burn in a stove, I cut them in short blocks and drilled 4-6-8-10mm holes, it’s the 8 mm holes that are preferred by solitary bees.
Here I tried a different method by routing long grooves into poplar boards, I had read that solitary bees preferred this as the holes are deeper than with drills, they can lay more eggs in each. This was a huge task and so far none have been used by bees, they visit all the holes but so far always select the drilled holes.
I don’t know if this is due to the depth, wood species or width. If anything changes I will update this page.
Below you can see the two other fillings, the cases filled with straw should help insects like ladybugs or earwigs find a place to hibernate. These are very useful auxiliary helpers.
In the middle I placed two ceramic construction blocs filled with a clay/straw mixture, some type of bees build their nests in the ground, this could serve as an alternative. Also notice how I filled all the spacings between the drilled blocs with branches of soft-core species (raspberry in this case) certain types of bees only lay eggs in this type of material where they need to dig their own nest.
A mason bee busy making cells in one of the holes, it took less than 3 days before bees started filling holes. About a week later there were at least 6 different bees working frantically, having filled several holes already. They are active mostly in the spring, that is when the new bees come out and immediately start working.
Note the two filled holes, this mason bee is now busy closing a third hole.
Download the sketchup model here:
- A side panel 2x: (38x200mm) x 1040mm
- B top/bottom panel 2x: (38x200mm) x 860mm
- C middle panel 2x: (38x160mm) x 616mm
- D side shelf 4x: (20x160mm) x 260mm
- F middle shelf 1x: (20x160mm) x 336mm
- G top beam 1x: (38x38mm) x 824mm
- H edge beam 2x (38x38mm) x 900mm
- I side beam 4x (38x38mm) x 276mm
- J stand pole 2x (80x80mm) x 1360mm
- K stand traverse 2x (38x80mm) x 664mm
I used oak which I planed to standard SLS or CLS thickness (38mm) European/Canadian woodworkers can simply use SLS or CLS lumber to build this, US woodworkers should be able to use planed “2x” (2×2, 2×4, 2×8 etc…) timber.
You will also need to cover about 1,5m2 with cedar shingles.